MAYBE IT’S NOT ‘DISQUALIFYING’ AFTER ALL…. Yesterday, responding to allegations surrounding Richard Blumenthal and his military service, Marc Ambinder noted, “In the United States, military service is sacral; it conveys an instant authority, a pedigree, a cultural backstop for character. Lying about it, even exaggerating about it, is therefore instantly disqualifying.”

There is, however, some evidence to the contrary. As we talked about yesterday, George W. Bush made plainly and demonstrably false claims about his military service — repeatedly, over the course of several years — and faced minimal public criticism.

Ronald Reagan used to tell a story about serving in a U.S. Army unit assigned to film Nazi death camps, but the anecdote had no basis in reality — Reagan spent World War II in Hollywood, making training films, and didn’t get near a Nazi camp.

In an even more contemporary example, Jamison Foser flags this piece from Bob Somerby, who notes Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) exaggerated rhetoric about the first Iraq war.

What happened in 1998 when Graham, then a Republican congressman, was caught up in a much more extensive version of this mess? Graham had endlessly told the world that he was a “Gulf War veteran,” although his service during that period hadn’t taken him off the east coast. (The east coast of the U.S. ) By the way: In Graham’s case, we weren’t discussing a single misstatement from a single, two-year-old speech; Graham had endlessly presented himself as a “Gulf War veteran.” […]

Graham should refer to himself as a ”Gulf War era veteran,” we were told — and that’s pretty much the basis on which this flame was allowed to blow out. The flap about Graham blew over quickly, helped along by this sage advice. The fiery young fellow was allowed to proceed with the important business of impeaching the president.

And today, some twelve years later? Of course! On page one, the New York Times indicts a major Democrat, complaining that he once said, completely correctly, that he served “during the Vietnam era.” The use of “era” solved Graham’s problem. Twelve years later, the same construction is used, by the Times, to define Richard Blumenthal’s “lies.”

The Hill reported in 1998 that Graham made “repeated statements that he served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.”

I guess it’s not “instantly disqualifying” after all? At least not for Republicans anyway.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.